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MALINKY "3 Ravens" Greentrax CDTRAX 233

Since selling a respectable raft of copies of their debut outing 'Last Leaves' released in 2000, Malinky has undergone a line-up change, and is now a 5-piece, shedding founder member Kit Patterson, retaining Karine Polwart, Mark Dunlop and Steve Byrne and adding John Bews and Leo McCann. Formed in 1998, the band soon gained a Danny award for new talent at Celtic Connections and many would have first seen the name via Alison Cross - chosen by fRoots on one of its series of cover-fixed samplers. Later that year I caught them as they did a single set at Maghull near Liverpool, just 'cos it was on their way home from a festival booking and they felt like a few tunes! They struck me then, as they do now as the most epic of new young Scots bands.

Here, whilst the approach is much as before, it's more self-assured and well, plain stunning. 'Last Leaves' was inspired but '3 Ravens' has a depth and a gloss to it with an acoustic mix of traditional and original material - tunes with an undeniably widescreen approach and songs where sex, betrayal and redemption loom large. Karine's vocals have a sublime conviction that ranks her (as participation in the Connections 2001 "Scots Women" project showed) alongside peers far more her senior.

On Whaur Dae Ye Lie from the first CD, Karine showed that she had a novelist's eye for grim detail and reaffirms that now with The Sound Of A Tear Not Cried. Compared to this atmospheric prowl on the dark side with vocal and button-box drones, the traditional Billy Taylor (adultery, woman-dressed-as-man and murder) is a cheery singalong! Elsewhere the title cut is as crushingly black as ever but the CD thankfully does have moodswings and can veer from warm-hearted on the traditional 'Rovin Ploughboy', to anthemic on Follow The Heron. ( "Sleep blows the breath of the morning away and we follow the heron home" ) John Conolly's The Trawlin' Trade is a well-chosen cover adding to a cogent collection that just rings with authority.

As the band asked of us two years back, "enjoy the songs and make them your own." This vital album builds on the success of its predecessor and is reason aplenty for you to abide by their request, second time around.

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 50 of The Living Tradition magazine.